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TINSELTOWN SPYWITNESS.

Byline: Joel Stratte-McClure

'CURIOUS' INDEED: There was definitely some monkey business at the party following the premiere of ``Curious George'' at the ArcLight in Hollywood last weekend.

The table centerpieces at the Fountain Courtyard consisted of bunches of bananas, some servers wore yellow hats, and kids had their faces painted. Producer Ron Howard even brought his father to feast on chocolate-covered frozen bananas and hat-shaped cookies with yellow frosting.

``It took us nine years to complete 'George' and I wanted my dad to see it because he read the books to me when I was a kid,'' said Howard. ``The key was sticking to the great original material and getting just the right actors/voices.''

Will Ferrell, the voice of the Man in the Yellow Hat, and Drew Barrymore, the voice of the smitten schoolteacher, admittedly gave moving performances.

``I had to keep active and 'physicalize' exactly what was going on whenever I said anything,'' said Ferrell, as he gesticulated during the after-party. ``That enabled the animators to capture and use some of my movements, gestures and expressions. I'm not a bad cartoon character.''

Barrymore, who's recently been in the spotlight because of her braless appearance at the Golden Globes and her subsequent spoof on ``Saturday Night Live,'' was happy to discuss another physical attribute.

``My voice in 'George' sounds like I've been out partying all night in the Valley,'' said Barrymore. ``I had to keep jumping around when we were recording to get just the right breathless tone and pitch.''

But voiceless Curious George provided the real inspiration for the film that opens on Friday.

``Everyone involved had a great deal of reverence for George because he celebrates curiosity,'' said Howard, as he watched a young girl put a frozen banana in a warm hot dog bun. ``And we want to encourage children to follow that path.''

Don't worry. They will.

THE HORROR OF IT: Ryan Merriman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the current king and queen of teen horror flicks, were right at home at the ``Final Destination 3'' after-party on Wednesday night. The ballroom above the Mann Grauman's Chinese Theatre was decorated with mechanical fortunetellers from their gruesome amusement park scene and blow-ups of tarot cards, including ``Death'' and ``Torture.'' What makes the two, who appeared together in ``The Ring Two,'' such an intriguing terror film couple? ``They have a fantastic likability, and teen viewers can really identify with their characters,'' said writer/director James Wong, who also co-wrote the screenplay for ``Final Destination'' in 2000. ``And they take all the blood, brains and guts we throw at them in stride.''

``We're not blond-haired, blue-eyed, movie-star-looking kids,'' admitted Merriman. ``Our on-screen relationship is so realistic that kids watching feel like they're in the movie with us.''

That's not all viewers identify with. The audience gets clues and hints throughout the CGI-rich film to prepare them for each grisly encounter with death.

``Everyone interacts with us as we confront ghastly death scenes that knock them off their seats,'' said Winstead.

What's next on the Merriman/Winstead horror circuit? ``This is probably my last horror film,'' said Merriman as he hoisted a beer at the after-party. ``I've done four and feel like I've punched my ticket.''

``The teen horror genre is so huge today that we're lucky to have been swept up in it,'' predicted Winstead. ``But I think I'm now working on my last one.''

Neither of them seemed to notice the bemused smile on ``The Wheel of Fortune'' tarot card gazing down from the wall.

JEN SANS BEN, BABY: ``I keep checking my watch and wondering if I should give them a call,'' Jennifer Garner said when she left home for the first time without husband Ben Affleck and their 2-month-old daughter. ``But I know that Violet's with her dad - and he knows what he's doing. She's in very good hands.''

Garner tried to dodge questions about motherhood when she emceed a charity brunch for the I Have a Dream Foundation at the House of Blues last Sunday. She avoided photographers, didn't mingle with guests and politely brushed off most personal inquiries from journalists.

``That's a little too specific for me!'' she said to one prying writer. ``But everything's great. Thank you for asking!''

``It's hard for me to talk about this because it's so private, but the most exciting thing (about being a mother) is how much I don't care about anything else,'' Garner admitted in the Foundation Room just before taking an elevator to the Music Hall to go onstage.

What does Garner, who went back to work on 'Alias' Wednesday, plan to do after the show's final season? Not just find her next acting job. ``I'll be getting more involved with this foundation to help underprivileged kids in the hardest-hit schools get some direction for their lives,'' said Garner, who's hosted two annual benefits for the group. ``I want to mentor children, talk to classes and go on field trips.''

And what dreams does she have for Violet?

``I'd like her to be compassionate, generous and passionate about whatever she does,'' said Garner, whose dream as a child was to be a librarian and write children's books. ``And be hungry to learn.''

Better get ready for the lights, camera and action, Violet!

WE SAW U: Activist Cindy Sheehan, Ron and Cheryl Howard, Adrienne Barbeau, Anne Archer, Sally Field, Dylan McDermott, Christine Lahti, Kathy Najimy, Sally Kellerman and Marisa Tomei at the opening of ``The Good Body,'' Eve Ensler's one-feminist show at the Wadsworth Theatre in Westwood on Wednesday night.

Courtney Love having a poolside tea at the Chateau Marmont.

Tea Leoni at Lush Cosmetics in Santa Monica picking up an entire wheel of Karma Soap for husband David Duchovny.

CAPTION(S):

4 photos

Photo:

(1) HOWARD: Man not in the yellow hat.

Lester Cohen/WireImage.com

(2) FERRELL and BARRYMORE: Missing a monkey.

Getty Images

(3) FIELD: She does a ``Good Body'' good.

Michael Buckner/Getty Images

(4) MERRIMAN and WINSTEAD: Is it really their ``Final Destination''?

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 5, 2006
Words:1006
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